A new survey conducted by the Chinese Center for Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has found that slightly over half of consumers surveyed were either strongly or moderately receptive to genetically modified foods. Only 16% were strongly opposed and 27% were neutral.
The survey covered 400 families in six cities of Guangdong and Jiangsu Provinces.
Professor Huang Jikun, leader of the study, said that the results show that Chinese consumers still have a higher degree of acceptance of GMOs than consumers in other countries.
However, the degree of acceptance appears to be on a downward trend. In 2002 and 2003 the Center conducted similar surveys that showed 61% were receptive to GMOs and only 8% were strongly opposed. About the same proportion were neutral.
Huang attributes the declining acceptance to negative publicity about GMOs disseminated on the Internet in recent years.
The only major food in China containing significant genetically-modified material at present is cooking oil. Most kinds of vegetable oil contain oil from genetically-modified soybeans from the U.S. and South America (and possiby domestic GMO cottonseed). Genetically-modified soybeans are not planted in China (at least not legally), so some oils made from domestic beans are labeled as "GMO-free."
Companies that sell vegetable oil are paying attention to the change in consumer attitudes. Companies are placing "non-GMO" logos in more prominent places on labels.
Huang asserts that consumers give little consideration to GMO content in actual purchasing decisions. In research conducted in Nanjing supermarkets, Bai Junfei, another researcher from the Center, found that consumers typically spend no more than 30 seconds deciding what cooking oil to purchase. They often take the recommendations of sales persons. The main consideration for 70% of people is price, followed by brand and color of the oil. No more than 15% said they were concerned about GMO content.
A China Academy of Agricultural Sciences researcher, Huang Dafang, says that it's only natural that people have little understanding of GMOs since it's a new thing. As society and technology develop he thinks more people will understand GMOs. He seems to imply that this means greater acceptance.